Cold Lazarus

I absolutely love science fiction, have done all my life. That is not to say that I have spent my entire life consuming science fiction, although there have certainly periods where I have done that! More personally though, the concept of science, technology and the future has itself had a long life appeal. In a deeply profound, almost spiritual way. The way that I view the world is through an imagined futuristic lens where I see things as not limited to the constraints that have forged them as they are, but instead I see things as how they might be. Might be, evolved along logical lines of progression based on technology and human imagination. Everything from the art I enjoy to the music I listen to and create is inspired through a lens of the future. I read a lot about the developments in science and technology and I’m very rarely surprised by the developments we make as humans. Impressed and amazed, absolutely, sometimes a little scared for sure, but not surprised. I think a lot of men and women my age and background feel the same way. True ‘home computing’ was born when I was a boy and I literally grew up spending hours and hours sitting in front of and tinkering with computers. That combined with a gourmet menu of new and old science fiction TV, books and films created a sort of expectation within me that science and technology would just keep evolving. Keep developing until everything we could imagine (or view on Star Trek!) would be eventually realised. In fact, much of it has already, which on some level justifies the ‘faith’ I’d grown up with. I remember when I was in primary school, I entered a school competition to describe ‘the school of the future’. My contribution was a picture that showed a kind of ‘school sick bay’ where all injury and sickness at school (not sure why I expected this to be such an issue in schools of the future!) would be fixed in seconds by an overhead machine with healing laser beams. We won something for that, but I can’t remember what it was. I think it was a badge or something! I don’t subscribe to a clichéd ‘dystopian’ vision of the future either. Whilst I continually despair at the state of the world, both locally and globally, inherit in me is a belief that mankind is capable of great things. I believe we will overcome the selfish and destructive aspects of our nature and ultimately realise some of the incredible potential that no doubt exists. We see glimpses of it everywhere; in art, music, science, philosophy and in the depth of loving human relationships on myriad different levels. But I’m not claiming to be some sort of futurist savant or anything like that! The reason I’m telling you all this is that whilst I focused on getting over the first Chemo round and the dreaded chest infection (finally killed after 4 lots of antibiotics), I was reading a lot of stuff about Brain Tumours. There was the normal spattering of research stories, survivor stories and death stories. Debates about legalized suicide, natural remedies and all those other powerful, inspiring, hope bringing and dread inducing articles. Mixed within all this, I read a story from a couple of years ago that moved me deeply. A young woman (only 23) was diagnosed with the same brain cancer that I have. She had reached the point where there was no further hope for survival and had decided she wanted to be cryogenically frozen to try and buy another chance at life in a future. She felt cheated on a life that was rightfully hers. She decided to try and press the ‘pause’ button to allow life to be resumed in a future where she could be revived and cured. She used the crowd funding site Reddit to raise the £70k odd she needed and on her death had her head removed from her body and frozen and stored in the hope that technology would ultimately restore her. For me it was a powerful, exciting and chilling (see what I did there?) story. The story took centre stage in my mind for two days whilst I tried to work through how I really felt about what she had done and what the ramifications of that bold decision might be. The ‘futurist’ in me told me that there is certainly no reason why the technology would ultimately not be available to achieve her wish. Of course, there are a million reasons why it still might not happen - anything from the company storing her head going bust through to unknown population explosion issues leading to bans on restoring anyone from the past! It seems very plausible to me that it would be theoretically possible in the future though. She might just get what she wished. And if you accept for a moment my predictions of a positive outcome for mankind, she could be awakened in a far better place that she left - maybe even a golden age for humans. For her of course, if she was revived, it’s likely that her perception would be that almost no time had passed at all. At the point of death, the narrative of perception (let’s call that ‘conscious thought’ or ‘consciousness’) would have been paused. On revival that ‘story’ would resume and the mind would construct a continuing narrative to create a coherent story. Exactly the same when we awake each morning after sleep. But whilst the narrative would seem intact to her, like awakening from a sleep the night before, many years could have past. Many hundreds of years most likely. I started to imagine a similar journey for my own life. Head cut clean off, frozen for 300 years, a new body grown, life restored and illness cured. The inevitability of my unjust death cheated and an opportunity to live again. But even in my imagined utopian future, what kind of life would that actually be? I would be an antique. Society, culture, communication and meaning would likely be as unintelligible to be as a man from 300 years ago would make of our time. Even with all the support, nurturing and retraining of the benefactors of the future, what would be waiting for me as a ‘life’ after my resurrection? My wife would be dead, my children too. Their descendants? What would I be to them? What about my friends or my passions and interests? I wonder if experimental ambient drone music will be back in vogue in the incredible year 2314? It was a lot to take in. As I thought it through and for a while and dared to imagine a future that could save me from my fate, a kind of sad acceptance started to manifest within me. It’s not the concept of ‘life’ that I am passionate about. I don’t hunger to exist at all costs. It’s MY life that I feel that way about. I don’t want to awaken alone in a cold future to have to build a new existence in whatever strange environment I would find myself in. I want my own life that I’ve already got, right now. I want my wife and my kids. My friends and family. My music, my job and all those other silly, wonderful, frustrating and fulfilling things that make my life what it is today. As much as I love the advancement of science and technology, as much as I believe in the potential of mankind, I don’t desire a solitary one way ticket to the future. There is a great line in an ELO song called “21st Century Man” which imagines a man from the 1980’s being transported to the future and it reads; “though you ride on the wheels of tomorrow, you still wander the fields of your sorrow”. It felt very poignant as I thought this all through. It’s not the future that I desire, it is the here and now. Those are the things that have value and purpose for me. Those are the things that represent ‘loss’ to me. If I awoke with all of those things gone, then my life would have no meaning. So - no cryogenic escape route for me by the looks of it. I did consider the possibility of buying a time machine in the future and then coming back. I had to conclude that the future was becoming too silly at this point. Meanwhile though, back in the present, three main threads were manifesting themselves. Firstly, I was starting to feel better. I had a really rough week at the six week mark after the radiotherapy was finished (very common apparently), my speech was all over the place and I was frightening the cancer was back. It passed though and with the chest infection sorted I started to feel mentally and physically stronger. I discovered a massive coloration between my physically state and my mental wellbeing - understandable I guess. Secondly, my work embarked on a charity drive in my name to raise money for ‘The Headcase Cancer Trust’ who fund research into the specific cancer I have. I couldn’t believe the effort, commitment and concern that I was seeing from the people that I worked with, it was truly moving. After five months away from the office, I genuinely believed that for most I would be a dim and distant memory and the scale of the support totally stunned me, it was very moving. Finally, I realised that the nature of my life had also changed. During the surgery and the radiotherapy, we were living in a kind of ‘crisis’ mode where everything was very immediate and consuming in the moment. This next stage of treatment is slower and less intense. It provides much more time to think and absorb what has happened, what might happen. This new mode takes some adjustment and it’s not always easy to reconcile. Sometimes it feels a little like an early retirement, sometimes a little like living on death row. However, I’m now nearly through the second round of Chemo and undoubtedly feeling better than I was during the first round. How am I feeling right now? Bring it on! Go here to the start of the journey. Go here to view the next blog entry. Go here to view previous blog entry.

 
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